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vacation

I know it’s been a while and I have some catching up to do. The  last few months have been a lot of working, leading up to a trip. This summer we took off to Northern England, visiting Manchester for some shows at the Manchester International Festival (the shows will get their own posts). After five days in Manchester we went further north into Scotland, spent a few days in Glasgow and a week in Edinburgh. This is a small collection of photos from our trip. These are meant to be a teaser, to see the full collection have us over for dinner. We have hundreds of pictures, many are better than the one’s I’ve chosen to post here.

This was at our first stop at a atm in Manchester, these drawings of celebrities were everywhere.

One day trip we took was to see Chatsworth House outside of Sheffield. The train ride up was crowded, I sat next to a charming old woman going north to visit her ailing auntie. She was in her seventies and couldn’t have been cuter.

Chatsworth is the estate of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. The family still live in part of the house, the rest of the house is a museum for the family’s collection of stuff. There were lots of paintings, ornate beds, and painstakingly painted and decoupaged wallpaper. Also lots of books, dishes, and for some reason thousands of geodes. When I look back at the house now I mostly remember this giant chandelier made of deer heads.

The gardens of the house is where you want to be. The grounds double as the family’s sculpture garden. Winding paths take you from pond to flower patches, to rocky water features. It was sort of dream of mine to walk a real english garden hedge maze. Thanks to the little girls that helped us find the center, and your grandfather was very nice to us on the way out.

We stayed in Manchester for five days, but only spent two days there. We spent our first day wandering around the city, a large part a which is devoted to a massive mall called the Arndale. So we spent a lot of time shopping, where I bought my first (of five) jacket of the trip. The last time we were in England I fell for british jackets. This time I saved up.

The Salford Quays, a waterfront development area, is where we spent another day. The British War Museum, the new BBC Studio and the arts center The Lowry are the big draws. We went there because later in the day we would be seeing a show at The Lowry. Weirdly, this is all located next to a large discount mall. We started our day with Harry Potter at the theater in the mall. The theater was empty, just a couple of families, so the excitement level was down. It was the day after it opened, we were hoping for a crowd full of anticapation. And I will never forget the large soda stain just left of center screen. Loved the movie and have already seen it again. The War Museum was diverting, the BBC Building was nice and the free part of the Lowry was cool. The building below is The Lowry, where people were ziplining for charity.

After Manchester we took the train to Glasgow, it was suppose to be a stopover for our trip further north. We had a few hours to kill so we took a double-decker bus tour. Unfortunately while on the bus a massive downpour happened, which then flooded the train station and all the trains were cancelled. Stranding us in Glasgow. After some wandering around found a room at the Millennium Hotel in the center of town. We stayed in Glasgow for two days. We did a lot of walking, it’s a very pretty city. Lucky for us we found The Two Figs at the start of Byres Rd, we both had killer burgers. We never did find Belle & Sebastian.

We spent a good part of a day walking around places designed by Charles Renne Mackintosh. While taking a touring of The Lighthouse, I fell in love with the roof tops of Glasgow.

We really liked Glasgow, but we couldn’t wait to get to Edinburgh. Our bed and breakfast in Edinburgh was near the university, our first night we walked around the neighborhood. It was much like any college neighborhood here in the U.S.  The closest place to our B&B was the Salisbury Arms , a gastro-pub that had just opened. This is where I had my first Veggie Haggis, it set the bar high, it was delicious.

We’ve planned this trip for a very long time, Morgan did the bulk of the work. I knew very little about Edinburgh. I was blown away by how beautiful the city was. Walking into the city on a foggy morning was the right way to meet Edinburgh.

The second veggie haggis was at Henderson’s, a vegetarian café near downtown. It was tasty but not even close to the first one. And I don’t understand the currants on top. By the way, the currants were perfectly ripe and sweet, we saw them all over Scotland.

The fog cleared and the sun was out for our trip to the Botanical Gardens. It wasn’t peak season for the gardens but there was still plenty to see. We talked to people about plants and walked around the many greenhouses where the main attraction of the gardens are The Giant Victoria Water Lilies. These were pretty impressive, some about 8 feet wide with 3-4 inch spikes on the underside.

As part of our research for our trip we watched many travel shows about Edinburgh. Anthony Bourdain introduced us to the chef Tom Kitchin. One of the first things Morgan did when he was planning the trip was to make a reservation at his Michellin starred restaurant The Kitchin. We had a delicious seven course menu made with locally sourced ingredients. Everything was very tasty, but overly fussy. The restaurant felt super formal, we never felt we could relax. Still it was a good meal, and afterwards they brought out to the bar for petit fours, I had the Oban 10 year, Morgan had one of the few decent cups of coffee we had on this trip.

We decided to take a bus tour of the highlands, and did our best to ignore the 8 hour duration. Our bus had one family, the staff of an indian restaurant, and another gay couple from Italy or Brazil (?) Pitlochny was the first stop, most of the group went to the shops. Morgan and I took the walk to see a fish ladder and a dam. On the walk we finally got a close look at a purple flower that we saw all along the train tracks. We found out after we got back that it’s called the rosebay willowherb, and it is an invasive species. It seems we gave them willowherb and they gave us scotch broom.

The Scottish highlands were amazingly beautiful and so worth the long time spent on the bus. I am purposely not posting the best picture, you need to see it.

The last stop of the tour was a photo-op with a highland cow. His name is Hamish.

Morgan and I love walking farmers markets. Edinburgh’s was on the smaller side, yet filled with a great selection of goods with a focus on local sea foods and meats. I wish I could have that bread now.

Edinburgh is perpetually beautiful, so much so it hurts the eyes at times. So jealous of the people who live there.

Being big Harry Potter fans we had to go to the Elephant House. This picture if from the café where JK Rowling wrote the first book. Edinburgh Castle on the hill was the inspiration for Hogwarts.

Morgan is a master at vacation planning now. I am so grateful for his guide-book reading, that’s how he found a meandering walk from the twisting roads of New Town to the Modern Art Museum. A surprising amount of nature in the middle of the city. Morgan is pointing to a sculpture of a man, it was the first of several signs that we were getting closer to the museum, which was closing right as we got there.

Our last full day was a very quick trip to York, we were only there for about 3 hours. We carried on our tradition of taking the double-decker tour bus with audio commentary, I would recommend them in Glasgow and Edinburgh, but not the one in York. Once we got off the bus and wandered around we found the charm, it was at the end of many twisty roads.

Our last meal was at a pub on the Royal Mile suggested by our b&b host recommended so that Morgan could have local pub fare style haggis, and yes, the pub also had veggie haggis. Turns out Edinburgh is a great place for a vegetarian.

This is Gerry, he was the host at the Gil Dun Guest House. He made us feel so welcome and gave us the best restaurant tips. I wish everyone could have a meal at that chinese place run by a very eccentric woman who worked the room telling stories and protecting people from allergies.